The United States is not just another democracy on the map. Plenty of countries have elections to choose their heads of state, but given the unique role the U.S. has as a global superpower, and the effects of our policies on the international stage, a global audience keeps an eye on our presidential elections with scrutiny other countries don’t receive.
After all, we’re choosing the “Leader of the Free World.”
But just as the U.S. is not just another democracy, 2016 is not just another election. While international observers tend to watch American presidential elections with a degree of curiosity, this year, the world is experiencing a very different kind of sentiment.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to reassure foreign leaders that Donald Trump is nothing to worry about during a trip to the Middle East last week. “Everybody asked me about Trump in terms of policy changes. I said he is an outlier, don’t look at him,” Graham told reporters Thursday about his overseas trip.
The most serious concerns Graham said leaders from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt expressed raised were regarding Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States.
The South Carolina Republican, hardly a liberal, added that many of the leaders he spoke to were “dumbfounded that somebody running for president of the United States would suggest that the United States ban everybody in their faith.” Officials abroad, he added, are “bewildered.”
There’s a lot of this going around. At a White House briefing this week, a reporter asked President Obama whether Trump’s foreign-policy proposals are “already doing damage” to America’s reputation. “The answer … is yes,” Obama responded. “I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.”
Last week, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) returned from a trip abroad and said officials in Israel and Turkey specifically pressed him on the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Republican presidential race.
All of this dovetails with reporting from a month ago about international “alarm” over Trump from officials in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.
A senior NATO official, speaking before the Republican frontrunner talked publicly about abandoning the treaty organization, was quoted telling Reuters, “European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and, now, growing panic.”
As we talked about at the time, there’s ample speculation about the message the United States would send to the world if Trump was elected president. But there’s probably not enough speculation about the damage the success of Trump’s campaign is already doing to the nation’s reputation.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2016
In order to understand the recent attacks in both Brussels and Paris, Ian Bremmer lists “5 facts that explain why Europe is ground zero for terrorism.” Numbers 2 and 3 on the list demonstrate why the response of Republican presidential candidates Trump and Cruz are so radical and dangerous.
It’s no coincidence that these two countries are such breeding grounds for Islamic terrorism. Both are home to some of the most radicalized and ostracized Muslim neighborhoods on the continent; Molenbeek in Brussels, and the banlieues in Paris…
In the refugee crisis, ISIS has recognized a golden opportunity to further its narrative of a civilizational war between Islam and the West—and many European leaders have played directly into the terror group’s hands. When the Polish and Bulgarian prime ministers say that they are only willing to accept Christian refugees, it gives fodder for ISIS to rally more zealots to its cause…ISIS clearly wants the European public to conflate refugees and terrorists, and it has been doing a disturbingly good job so far.
Both Trump and Cruz are providing ISIS with fodder for their “civilizational war between Islam and the West” by suggesting that we should stop immigration of Muslims to this country. And of course, Trump proposes things like torture as well as the targeting of terrorists’ families.
But it was the suggestion from Cruz that law enforcement should target Muslim neighborhoods that is perhaps most alarming because it is so insidious. Not only does it suggest that people should be treated like criminals based on their religious faith, Cruz made this alarming comparison yesterday.
Cruz repudiated the comparison [to Japanese internment camps] at the press conference, saying: “I understand that there are those who seek political advantage and try to raise a scary specter.”
He instead compared it to ridding neighborhoods of gang activity and law enforcement’s efforts “to take them off the street.”
In other words, he is suggesting that living in a Muslim neighborhood (however that is defined) means you should be treated the same as a gang member. A spokesman for the NYPD tweeted an important response.
Hey, @tedcruz are our nearly 1k Muslim officers a “threat” too? It’s hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement
— J. Peter Donald (@JPeterDonald) March 23, 2016
There are those who suggest that one of the reasons four attacks in Europe since 9/11 have killed 426 people, while terrorism has claimed the lives of 45 people in the United States is that Muslim neighborhoods in this country have not been radicalized and ostracized. Republicans like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump want to change all that…and make us less safe.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 23, 2016
No doubt Donald Trump will be thrilled that the entire world is mesmerized as he steamrolls over his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination.
He probably doesn’t care that most of the international publicity is bad publicity—but even the master of ill-tempered putdowns and Twitter vitriol will struggle to keep up with the sheer number of attacks and jibes pouring in from every corner of the globe.
He does have a select band of fans—more on those later—but they are being drowned out by an incredulity that stretches from Europe’s capitals to post-conflict Afghanistan; from the African deltas to Asia’s tiger economies.
With the Iowa caucuses just days away, people simply cannot understand how a man like Donald Trump could run a successful presidential campaign in the world’s most powerful nation.
“People are in disbelief; they think he is borderline crazy,” Magnús Sveinn Helgason, an Icelandic historian who worked on the national inquiry into Iceland’s financial crash, told The Daily Beast. “People are kind of scared about what it would be like to live in a world where he is one of the most powerful leaders.”
The interest and hostility toward Trump peaked after his remarks about banning Muslims from the country. A correspondent in Nigeria, a nation of more than 70 million Muslims, says: “Trump was trending on social media and believe me, he was the one man on earth Nigerians hated the most. He still is.”
Leaders from France, Egypt, Canada, the United Nations, and Saudi Arabia were among those to publicly criticize Trump for his proposed ban on entry to America on religious grounds.
In London, politicians held an unprecedented debate in Parliament about whether to introduce a tit-for-tat ban that would prevent Trump from traveling to Britain. The debate was tabled by Labour’s Paul Flynn after more than half a million members of the public signed a petition backing a ban.
“He does seem to be reckless, arrogant, impulsive—and those are his best qualities,” Flynn told The Daily Beast. “He doesn’t fit the mold of anyone’s idea of a statesman because of his rash statements, his flying off the handle to abuse friend and foe. There are few politicians that have been so obviously reckless in modern times, there were people like that before the last war, of course.”
Gawping at Trump has become a national pastime in Britain, a nation that usually pays little attention to international politics. The window in one barbershop in St. Paul’s, in central London, reads: “If Trump becomes President, there will be hell toupee.”
Flynn said the public had turned against Trump not just over his harsh words toward Muslims but for a number of offensive statements. “His remarks about women, and against the disabled journalist came pretty high up on the levels of revulsion against politicians. There are very few countries in the world where mockery of women and the disabled is acceptable.”
In Muslim Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered a stinging critique of Trump’s political acumen. “A successful politician would not make such statement,” he said. Erdogan, who has been either prime minister or president of Turkey since 2003, said Trump would face an embarrassing situation if he ever got to the White House. “I don’t know whether or not he’ll win, but let’s suppose he won. What will happen? Will he set aside all relationships with Muslim countries? A politician shouldn’t talk like this.”
He hasn’t only got flak from the government but also his business partners, suggesting his fiery political rhetoric could have financial implications. Bulent Kural, manager of a shopping mall at the Istanbul Trump Towers, a twin high-rise commercial and residential building, condemned what he said. “Such statements bear no value and are products of a mind that does not understand Islam, a peace religion, at all,” Kural said. The Trump Tower complex in Istanbul was developed by Turkish billionaire Aydin Dogan, who pays Trump for the name. His global brand could clearly suffer.
In China, his business reputation is already compromised, despite repeated bragging that he “knows China.” Over there, he is compared to the nutty Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao, who once tried to buy The New York Times.
It is well-known that in the ’80s and ’90s, he went to Hong Kong to look for investors who could help bail him out of a tight spot. Some local tycoons invited him to play golf for $1 million a hole, Trump realized he was being outmuscled and declined. The investors did eventually buy up part of Trump’s mortgage, for $82 million. When they cashed out for $1.8 billion a decade later, Trump was so furious that he sued them.
The average Chinese man on the street may not be following the American election, but the Global Times, an uber-nationalistic state-run media outlet warned readers Thursday: “If you plan to visit New York sometime this year, take my advice: Try to stay away from Fifth Avenue because Donald Trump may be lurking there with a gun.”
Indeed, Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and Daily Beast contributor, said Beijing was paying close attention. “China is obsessed with Trump, just as Trump is obsessed with China,” he said. “State media takes his candidacy as proof that American democracy is flawed, comparing him to a ‘celebrity potato,’ for instance. Chinese netizens generally denigrate him as well, but in a country where Communist Party leaders are highly scripted, you can be sure they secretly admire someone who speaks his mind.”
On the other side of China’s mountainous border with Afghanistan, government officials in Kabul were equally unimpressed.
Zardasht Shams, the deputy minister of information, said they were still waiting to hear a real policy on how Trump would deal with the U.S. drawdown and post-conflict resolution. “Sorry, I’m not well updated on this fool’s policy or stand on Afghanistan,” he told The Daily Beast. “In general, Afghanistan, being a conservative and radical Muslim society, would hate and extremely dislike [Trump becoming president] and feel uncomfortable because of his anti-Muslim statements.”
The hostility toward Muslims has gone down better with some in Israel, where the statements have resonated with a growing far-right movement, which has called upon Israeli politicians to revoke Israeli Arabs’ citizenship and residency rights as a form of collective punishment.
These extremists see Muslims and Arabs as a barbaric enemy that understand only power and with whom the enlightened “Western” world cannot negotiate, and some see parallels here in Trump’s own worldview.
Within that far-right movement, a lot of Israelis see Trump’s brash racism as a refreshing dose of truth. While Trump scares many in the Israeli left, he has won credit among even the mainstream right for saying that the world should recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital and Israel’s need for a separation wall, both of which President Obama and the international community have criticized.
Another potential friend is lounging on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Silvio Berlusconi, now 79, has had a low profile in Italy since being banned from public office in 2013 for tax fraud. He recently said his party still needs him, so he is claiming that his ousting was unconstitutional, and friendly words from Trump have been warmly welcomed. “I love Italy,” Trump said. “Berlusconi? He’s a great guy. I like him.”
Berlusconi seems to think this will help him back into power. He has always maintained close personal ties with Vladimir Putin and one might envision the three of them in a sort of club of global misfits if Trump is elected and Berlusconi is back in power.
In the rest of Western Europe, mainstream politicians and the media have been largely critical of the American property tycoon. In Germany, Der Spiegel published an article explaining “Trump’s World.” They concluded: “You can laugh about it, get angry about it—this man lives on his own planet.”
The Dutch magazine Elsevier tried harder to explain Trumps’ popularity in the polls. “Trump chooses Fort America… he’s obsessed with national identity. It is a mistake to dismiss him as a clown without ideology. He certainly has a nationalist ideology, which is in tune with the international Zeitgeist.”
Deeyah Khan, a filmmaker born in Norway, said there had been a real effect on Europe’s Muslim population, especially after Muslim and Sikh citizens were thrown out of Trump events.
“The Trump phenomenon shows us how much fear of Muslims there is out there, and how easily it can be exploited,” she told The Daily Beast. “The reaction of his followers to Rose Hamid and Arish Sing is deeply scary.”
When he announced his presidential run last summer, Le Monde described him in its headline, flatly but correctly, as an “eccentric billionaire.”
Since then, people in France and Belgium have learned that he casts his insults far and wide. At the beginning of the week, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, she asked Trump about his plans to stop Muslims from entering the United States. He cited Paris and Brussels as places where Muslims were out of control and unassimilated: “You go to Brussels —I was in Brussels a long time ago, 20 years ago, so beautiful, everything is so beautiful—it’s like living in a hellhole right now.”
When the Belgian press translated hellhole idiomatically, it came out as “trou à rats,” or, literally, rat hole.
One showed a beautiful shot of La Grand Place, the square at the heart of Brussels, alongside Trump shouting: “WHERE is the #hellhole @realDonaldTrump? Brussels or your mouth???”
Someone else proposed a novel way to shut Trump up—and blocked up his mouth on Photoshop with a huge Belgian waffle.
By: Nico Hines, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2016
“Congress Consorting To Thwart U.S. Diplomacy?”: The NSA Reportedly Spied On Congress. Is That The Real Scandal?
There’s a lot we don’t know beneath The Wall Street Journal‘s report today that the National Security Agency picked up intelligence on meetings with U.S. members of Congress and domestic political groups while spying on the Israeli government after credible reports (subsequently validated by the surveillance) that the Israelis were collecting and leaking intelligence on the sensitive U.S.-Iran nuclear talks.
The story has many dimensions. But, so far, virtually all of the reaction involves two questions: (1) Should the U.S. be spying on our ally Israel? (This was raised immediately if cautiously by Marco Rubio, who’s in a bit of a quandary because he’s normally a fan of surveillance.) And (2) should the Executive branch be spying, even incidentally, on the Legislative branch? (Former House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra called for an investigation of this possibility and for indictments if it turned out to be true.) These are both important and complex issues. But there should be a third question raised as well: Should members of Congress be consorting with agents of a foreign government to thwart U.S. diplomacy?
Perhaps this question seems obvious in the context of a situation where the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives invited a foreign prime minister to address Congress with the thinly veiled intention of building opposition to approval of the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. But most Republicans and some Democrats have long adopted the habit of arguing that the U.S. should defer to Israel on all matters relating to the Middle East, to the point of abandoning any pretense of an independent point of view. The dominant position among Republicans was articulated by Mitt Romney in October of 2012: “The world must never see daylight between our two nations,” meaning the U.S. and Israel. No one was under the illusion that Romney was instructing Israelis to move closer to the U.S.
This was and remains a dangerous and largely unprecedented position. Even if one intends slavish obeisance to a foreign government, there’s something to be said for keeping up the appearance of independence. After all, a lot of the conservatives most determined to carry Bibi Netanyahu’s water in Washington are also outspoken about the U.S. being the unchallenged colossus of global affairs, unconstrained by alliances with Euro-weenie socialists or even friendly relations with Muslim countries. So it would be preferable if American politicians who want to signal to conservative Evangelicals or to Sheldon Adelson that Bibi’s policies will be their own could find a way to do so without meeting with people who are under U.S. intelligence surveillance. Their hatred of Barack Obama is no excuse for disloyalty to the United States.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 30, 2015
“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” How many times have you heard that one? Sure, we heard Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade say it, but to me, that was simply part of the Fox News plan to make their viewers dumber, as we saw again this past weekend when its terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson was caught fabricating the story that Birmingham, England, is closed to non-Muslims. But more alarmingly, even some reasonable people have uttered this statement.
And that comment is often followed up by the question: Why don’t we see Christian, Buddhist, or Jewish terrorists?
Obviously, there are people who sincerely view themselves as Muslims who have committed horrible acts in the name of Islam. We Muslims can make the case that their actions are not based on any part of the faith but on their own political agenda. But they are Muslims, no denying that.
However, and this will probably shock many, so you might want to take a breath: Overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims. Let’s give that a moment to sink in.
Now, it’s not your fault if you aren’t aware of that fact. You can blame the media. (Yes, Sarah Palin and I actually agree on one thing: The mainstream media sucks.)
So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent.
As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.
We are talking about groups like France’s FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. And in Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks including sending a bomb to a journalist. And the list goes on and on.
Have you heard of these incidents? Probably not. But if Muslims had committed them do you think our media would’ve covered it? No need to answer, that’s a rhetorical question.
Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists have killed many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses and slaughtering four Muslims.
Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches.
Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.
And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).
In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.
But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.
Honestly, when is the last time we heard the media refer to those who attack abortion clinics as “Christian terrorists,” even though these attacks occur at one of every five reproductive health-care facilities? That doesn’t sell as well. After all we are a so-called Christian nation, so that would require us to look at the enemy within our country, and that makes many uncomfortable. Or worse, it makes them change the channel.
That’s the same reason we don’t see many stories about how to reduce the 30 Americans killed each day by gun violence or the three women per day killed by domestic violence. But the media will have on expert after expert discussing how can we stop these scary brown Muslims from killing any more Americans despite the fact you actually have a better chance of being killed by a refrigerator falling on you.
Look, this article is not going to change the media’s business model. But what I hope it does is cause some to realize that not all terrorists are Muslims. In fact, they are actually a very small percent of those that are. Now, I’m not saying to ignore the dangers posed by Islamic radicals. I’m just saying look out for those refrigerators.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, December 25, 2015